A Feminist Conversation on Chivalry

by Nicole Deagan, Ariana Barer, Ellie Gordon-Moershel, Carly Rhianna Smith, Helen Polychronakos, Carissa Ropponen, Katie Scholfield, and Caity Goerke. 

In March, The F Word Media Collective received the following email from The Morning News with Philip Till at CKNW:

“…I’m writing because I’m hoping that someone from The F Word would be available for an interview. Earlier this week I saw an article on chivalry in the Huffington Post and I thought it would open the doors for an interesting discussion. [http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/andrew-lawton/chivalry_b_2936648.html]. Basically in the article, the author talks about an incident at a coffee shop where he held open the door and a woman refused to walk through the door saying, “I don’t need a man to hold doors open for me.” The author says he was just doing what he was raised to do, be polite!

We are going to be speaking with the author of the article to have him share his story and start the discussion on chivalry, and we’ll also speak with a gender studies professor to talk about gender roles/stereotypes, etc. I’d like to have someone from The F Word on our show to talk about chivalry from a feminist point of view.”

In response, one of our collective members, Nicole, agreed to go on-air and seize the opportunity to share her thoughts about chivalry and to speak to how we might consider chivalry from a feminist perspective. Additionally, Nicole’s invitation for an interview sparked a conversation amongst the members of The F Word regarding our own thoughts on chivalry:

Ellie: I have an opinion on this. It’s definitely not top on my list of battles to fight but it does annoy me when men open doors for me but even more so is when men try and give up their seat to me on public transit.

Carly: I don’t see it as a big problem or something I need to speak up against because, quite frankly, there are bigger and more problematic issues when it comes to gender inequality. It’s a symptom of larger attitudes, no doubt, but having someone be extra polite to you is not really the worst thing that could happen. I’d take having someone awkwardly hold the door open or try to give me their seat on transit over being sexually propositioned or harassed on the street any day. It’s not malicious or ill-intentioned, and while it does carry the implication that I am a weaker female, I can live with it.

Katie: Basically, I think that whatever gender you are, it is polite to hold the door open for someone if it makes sense. i.e. If someone has a lot of stuff in their hands/are struggling with something, or if I’m simply a few steps ahead, and the flow of our walking makes opening the door for them more convenient than walking through myself and holding it open. For me its all about what is the most practical. Basically practicality and minimal disruption of movement is what I focus on. So, I get annoyed when my flow is disrupted because a guy is mislead into thinking it’s his job to open the door for me. Pet peeve!

Ellie: Exactly, politeness is holding the door for the person coming into a building behind you. Everyone should do that for everyone all the time regardless of gender. It just keeps the flow going (as Katie said). Politeness is also going out of your way to open a door for someone who is carrying a lot of shit. Again, regardless of gender.

Katie: I do not mind if a guy holds the door open for me, I don’t look at it as gendered. However, if a guy won’t walk through a door I hold open for him, then that’s a problem, and is the point at which chivalry or “politeness” becomes sexism.  What I mean when I use the term sexism, is not misogyny/hatred of women, but a perception that some action or exchange is to take place with the male or female in set roles; in this instance, a man opening the door for a woman.  If I open a door for a guy, oftentimes he will open the OTHER door himself and go through it.  How does that make any sense? It could easily be interpreted as rude, and likely would be so if I were to refuse to walk through a door a guy opened for me, and opened my own door.

Similarly, it makes no sense if I’m nowhere near a door and a guy holds it open, and waits 10 seconds or more for me to walk through, when I am clearly  able-bodied and not weighed down with objects.  Don’t do that.  That is inconvenient and doesn’t make sense if it’s simply to make you feel like you’re doing your job as the man, because in fact you are simply annoying capable women. :P

Ellie: Unfortunately, this argument always get conflated to “oh here goes another crazy feminist blaming a ‘nice’ guy for oppression.”

Caity: I was walking into a bank and an older guy was walking in a little ahead of me. The bank had a vestibule so we had to go through two sets of doors get inside. Because he arrived at the door first, he held it open for me. Considering that that meant I got to the second door before him, I tried to hold it open for him to return the favour. However, he stopped right away and (he was a lot taller than me) he reached over me to hold the door instead and insisted that I walk in ahead of him. What was the worst part about the situation was how flustered he got and how bad I felt for making the things feel awkward. The whole thing immediately made me feel like I should have just let him hold the second door in the first place because it would have been easier. Thinking about it later, that felt shitty because I know that the “easier” it seems to maintain the status quo, the harder it is to uncover where paternalism and sexism exist in ideas like chivalry.

Helen: I do have a little internal feminist spasm when a man opens a door for me, thinking: I should say something! I should educate this dude… But frankly most of the time I don’t have the time, and, as Ellie said, it’s not at the top of my list of important feminist battles. And the line between genuine courtesy and patronizing courtesy is sometimes hard to define. Men giving up their seats for able-bodied women is another matter, however. It is really annoying. I definitely decline.

Ellie: The transit seat thing kills me. A guy tried to give up his seat to me on the main street bus once and I politely declined. At the next stop a bunch of people got off and so I sat down and he said to me “see you did want a seat.” I responded, “how does it make any sense for me to have a seat over you. I’m obviously young and able bodied” so then we got into a public argument about ‘treating women well’ blah blah but I kept saying to him all of this ‘chivalry’ or ‘politeness’ is based on the notion that women are weaker than men and need their protection. No matter how nice the intention.

Carly: I guess this is something that’s crossed my mind in the past, although I haven’t thought about it too deeply. I suppose my take on it is that it’s not really something I see as a problem. Like Katie said, I hold doors open for people all the time (when it makes sense) out of politeness, and regardless of gender. I would hope common courtesy dictates that the person walking in front of me doesn’t let it slam in my face, especially if my arms are full or something. That being said, it does make me a little uncomfortable when somebody quite obviously goes out of their way to do something like that for me. However, that’s simply because I’m aware of the underlying implications that I’m “weaker” or “need help” as a female.

Carissa: Feminism has not killed chivalry. The two are not mutually exclusive.  Men can still continue to open doors for women while working toward substantive social change. One problem I see is that some men think that opening a car door, offering a seat on transit, or paying the dinner bill is doing enough to show they value women. It would be much more useful if men would focus on opening doors of opportunity for women rather than car doors because let’s face it, we are still living in an old boys club where most of the power is consolidated with wealthy white men. If these old boys would use their privilege and power to hold the doors of opportunity open to women rather than to hold them shut we would be further along our way to equality.

Ariana: I’m just thinking about some language I learned at an abelism / disability justice workshop the other day. The facilitator was talking about how useful the language of “enabled” folks and “disabled” folks can be. How does our society and our infrastructure enable some people (accommodate their needs) and disable others? Stairs, narrow hallways, inaccessible bathrooms, ridiculously long exams, tiny print, small seats, etc. Reading all of your thoughtful comments, I kept thinking about how chivalry can be used as an excuse to participate more directly in rape culture… otherwise we wouldn’t need a poster like this. Chivalry can act as one part of our cultural disabling of feminized bodies (as lacking, deficient, and needing extra or special accommodation) and enabling of masculinized bodies (as “normal” and fully capable). Women are supposed to need special safety tips to avoid rape (instead of an end to rape culture) and First Nations folks are supposed to need special funding and reserved land (instead of an end to colonization and racism), etc. Anyway, just thinking about some parallels/solidarity between disability justice, feminism, and Indigenous movements in relation to supposedly courteous acts by individuals, systems, and governments…

What do you think about the lines between “politeness” and “chivalry”? What does it mean when acts of “politeness” become gendered and how can we connect these ideas to discussions of feminism, ableism, etc.?

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Men’s Rights Activists and Misdirected Hatred

by Carly Rhianna Smith

Carly Rhianna Smith is a journalism student at Langara College currently completing her practicum at The Tyee in Vancouver. 

I became aware of the men’s rights movement in September of 2012, when a friend showed me an upcoming debate called “Has Feminism Gone Too Far?”

Vancouver slam poet Ruth Mason-Paull organized the debate. Feminist speakers as well as men’s rights activist (MRA) speakers were scheduled, and a public event on Facebook was created. Interestingly, the debate was to be held on Commercial Drive at Café Deux Soleil, a neighbourhood eatery haunted by many feminists, as well as others of the political left.

The Facebook event exploded with venomous discourse between the two camps, and the event was cancelled. According to an article on feminist website Jezebel.com dated September 10, “Mason-Paull canceled the debate … after receiving what she said was an overwhelming barrage of comments and threats.” On Mason-Paull’s Facebook page, she said “I come from a middle class belief that people can discuss things and work it out through logic and reasoning. I understand that this is at best delusional when applied to certain members of our society.”

Around the same time, in the same neighbourhood, posters from the Men’s Rights Movement (MRM) Vancouver group began appearing, and were soon torn down. The posters said things like “Rape Culture. Men Can Stop Rape. All Men Are Rapists. Had Enough of This Shit Yet?”

 

Journalist Derek Bedry, who soon came under fire from MRAs, reported on this in a story on Open File. They accused him of “creating the news” by tearing down the posters himself. They posted pictures of a man (who didn’t look much like him) and publicly vilified him in comments on the article. Comments were patronizing, saying things like “So how did you become a reporter again Derek? Do you receive a pat on the back from some ladies at work for this? Or do they throw some more bones at you?” All this was too juicy and I did some further research into the MRM.

The most active website I came across was AVoiceForMen.com. They have over 1,200 featured articles separated into categories like “misandry,” “sexual politics,” and “feminism.” They also put out radio shows on a multitude of topics pertaining to the MRM.

But what, exactly, do they stand for? And what do they hope to accomplish?

 

At best, the MRAs look to correct what they see as a series of social injustices directed towards men in a society that caters to female dominance. At worst, they are misguided, angry people with a chip on their shoulder using feminism as a scapegoat for the problems they face in their lives.

“You have a group in a privileged position in society and they’re claiming to be the victim; it’s either a strategic maneuver or else it’s just a misguided perspective,” says Nicole Deagan, a member of The F Word feminist media collective. Deagan encountered a lot of resistance from MRAs when she worked as a legal advocate for women who were going through the court system in the 1990s. “Either it’s people who have power and are uncomfortable with the idea of losing their power or they’re uncomfortable with somebody who’s typically not had power trying to get some. Or else it’s individuals, especially in the men’s rights movement, who are suffering injustices as individuals and they interpret it as a systemic issue,” she says.

The Vancouver Men’s Rights Activism website states in its FAQ: “The MRM is a true civil rights movement, which entertains no goals of removal of the legal rights of others. Both men and women are members of the men’s movement, which recognizes and works to address the real struggles men now face.” To them, this is in contrast to feminism, which “is now elitist, and prejudiced against men” because “many mainstream feminist organizations define masculinity in their public literature as hostile, violent and oppressive.”

The main antagonist of the MRM is feminism. “I’m of the firm belief that, while no society is perfect, we have pursued, and I think achieved, as much sexual parity as could possibly be hoped for in western culture,” says Paul Elam, creator of A Voice For Men. “If there is systemic discrimination against women, I would certainly stand up and speak against it if anyone could show me where it was. However, what I see in terms of systemic discrimination anymore works against men.”

 

MRAs are fighting against misandry, the fear or hatred of men and boys. A lot of MRM literature uses examples of men being irrationally feared as sexual aggressors, female-on-male violence not being taken seriously, and the court system’s favoritism of women to illustrate their point. The problem with their approach is that they frequently cite anecdotal evidence to back up their claims, yet provide either no or blatantly false empirical evidence or statistics to back them up.

Many MRAs, such as Vancouver resident Chris Marshall, seem to have become involved in the movement due to a personal hardship. Marshall runs the website A Father’s Story, which documents his custody battle with his wife, who lives in Alberta with their 11-year-old son. The website, to say the least, does not seem to be working in his favour. He has continued posting despite being ordered by a judge to take the site down, saying in a post, “It is still up because it is the only tool I have to get people to understand the 10-year nightmare that I have been through in the Alberta courts.” He posted his entire psychological assessment, in which Dr. J. Thomas Dalby states: “Mr. Marshall has shown, by his past actions, a sense of entitlement that he feels he has the natural right to construct access to his child in the way he sees fit in spite of legal restrictions. He has seen the consequences of this casual disregard of legal boundaries and his conduct can only be described as self-defeating.”

In an interesting turn of events, Marshall was to co-host a new debate after the first one at Café Deux Soleil was cancelled. John H., MRA blogger at A Voice For Men named only as “John The Other,” would also host. I intended to attend the debate and interview some of the MRAs in person. It was going to be held at the car dealership in East Vancouver, CC Motors, of which Marshall was the manager. I showed up not realizing this, and walked around in confusion, looking for the master debaters. I could see signage out in front of the dealership being taken down but not much other activity. I asked someone and they told me, “The guy who was supposed to run it never showed up.”

I found on the Facebook event page that police had escorted Marshall off the premises and that his position at the dealership had been terminated due to an entirely separate issue. I got his contact information from his website, and he seemed eager, if not overly so, to share his story with me. He expressed worry in our conversation that I was going to “use him” to get to other MRAs and defame their movement. After some reassurance, we arranged an interview time.

I showed up at the coffee shop we’d arranged to meet at 10 minutes early. I waited for him for over 45 minutes and placed several calls to him that remained unanswered and unreturned. He later replied to one of the emails I sent him, but never got back to me about re-scheduling an interview. This was perturbing; isn’t their goal to have their voices and points of view heard by the public? The opportunity was there and gone.

I soon found that MRAs are an elusive bunch outside of the realms of the internet. I managed to get ahold of Paul Elam after several emails over the course of two weeks or so. He admitted to me that the only reason he ever called me back was because I was “so persistent.” I also attempted to contact John The Other through the website, through Paul Elam, and through Facebook, to no answer.

This seems to be an MRA tactic – they control what information they’re putting out and the slant with which it’s communicated. If they don’t cooperate with media, then there is less of a chance of media scrutiny. In many articles, media has been unkind to MRAs, but this has been as much their own undoing as anything else.

Firstly, to get to the heart of the matter, a majority of claims made by MRAs are false. In a video made by Men’s Rights Edmonton, they say, “Women and men initiate domestic violence at similar rates. Over 250 scholarly studies demonstrate that women are as physically aggressive or more aggressive than men in their relationships with their spouses or male partners.” This assertion is widely purported in the MRA community. Notice that the “scholarly studies” are not named, nor are they cited anywhere. Another poster put up on Commercial Drive in September said, “Stop Violence Against Women. But not against men. Because men do not matter, and despite being more often the victims of violence, male victims are no good for fund raising, so screw them.” However, according to Statistics Canada, “In 2010, 7 in 10 (70%) victims of police-reported family violence were girls or women. Looking at rates, the risk of becoming a victim of police-reported family violence was more than twice as high for girls and women as it was for boys and men … The main factor behind females’ increased risk of family violence is related to their higher representation as victims of spousal violence. Women aged 15 years and older accounted for 81% of all spousal violence victims.” In addition, the Michigan Women’s Justice and Clemency Project says in its Clemency Manual, “Currently, there are approximately 2,000 battered women in America who are serving prison time for defending their lives against their batterers. As many as 90% of the women in prison today for killing men had been battered by those men.”

MRAs make claims that sound true or based in fact, when in actuality, they’re based on assumption, anecdotal evidence, or a complete misunderstanding of the issue. “Domestic violence against women is much more likely than domestic violence against men to be life-threatening,” says Jarrah Hodge, who runs the blog Gender Focus. “If MRAs want to address violence against men they should also look at male violence against men and address the stereotypes and pressures that unfortunately tells many men that violence is an acceptable way to resolve conflict and necessary to prove masculinity.”

Most perturbing are their claims regarding sexual violence. In the “Facts” section on A Voice For Men, they claim “Men are the overwhelming majority of rape victims.” However, none of the following statistics they present prove that. All the statistics have to do with the percentage of female aggressors in cases of child abuse, correctional facilities, or the inmates who report prison rape. These are all misleading. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, nine out of every 10 rape victims were female in 2003, while SexAssault.ca statistics show the over 80 per cent of sex crime victims in Canada are women.

Even more dangerous are their attitudes toward rape and rape culture. John The Other was quoted in Bedry’s Open File article as saying, “Maybe it’s a mistaken accusation, she doesn’t remember who she had sex with because she was drunk at the party or whatever. Some make accusations that have nothing to do with being raped; they’re angry, or they got stood up, they wanted to have sex with a guy but he said no. The fact that our society doesn’t have a balance for this is a major problem. I’m not suggesting every woman you meet is a loose cannon, but every woman you meet has the potential to be one, because for those few who are nutty, there’s no disincentive for them to go, oh, I was late for work. I know, I’ll just say I got raped.” This is speculative and revealing that, while MRAs say they are not anti-women, their attitudes are misogynistic at the core. The belief that women can and will falsely accuse men of rape in order to further their own ends is another symptom of the rape culture that MRAs claim does not exist.

“[They] definitely seem to see feminists as enemies. And so these men are in a position of power but are rallying people against their supposed ‘oppressors’. But since those aren’t real oppressors with real social power then it just ends up feeding into the same discrimination that women experience already,” says Deagan.

The clash between feminists and MRAs is tempestuous. “In my experience, their approach is quite reactionary as opposed to pro-active; I find they are more interested in smear campaigns against feminism rather than making a case for issues they think are important to men,” says Megan Karius, who maintains the Feminist Edmonton website. “They generally blame feminism for what they consider men’s issues and that ultimately detracts from their arguments.”

There seems to be a group of them that are quite vocal and quite aggressive so when they see something, specifically when they see women’s activists or anyone who’s trying to look at women’s issues, they kind of come in for the attack and so it’s very hard to have a reasonable conversation,” says Deagan.

I recognize that patriarchy is not only oppressive to women, but functions to oppress men as well. The term “patriarchy” is not some sort of imputation against all men, identifying them as oppressors of all women. Patriarchy is an institution; it functions at the cultural level and, while it does avail men with privilege, this does not mean that males are not also detrimentally impacted by patriarchy,” writes Jasmine Peterson in an article on the blog Gender Focus. This spurred a mocking, hateful response video from MRAs. The background of the video is a photo of someone in a gorilla mask with superimposed text that reads “Feminist sans makeup.” The men read her entire post in a mocking tone and present their own unsubstantiated facts, then go on to invite people to attack her.

The ones who have engaged me have generally taken one of two approaches: outright hostility and total dismissal of feminists as “cunts” or “feminazis” who are bent on bringing down men, or arguing more civilly that they don’t believe feminism is necessary because, in their view, society actually discriminates against men,” said Hodge.

They are just the latest trend in the ongoing backlash to the gains of the feminist movement we’ve seen in the past few decades.  While individual men may face structural inequality due to other aspects of their identity, such as race, class, sexual orientation, or ability, they still derive privilege from being male; I think the majority of MRAs are reacting to seeing some of their previously unquestioned privilege eroded and they are threatened by that,” says Karius.

One begins to wonder whether MRAs hate feminists, or are just rattled by women asserting themselves and challenging traditional modes of behaviour. Elam believes that the over-sexualization of women in the media is simply “recognizing women’s sexual power in this culture. Their sexual power gives them access to men economically.” He says that “sexuality generates a lot of financial generosity in men,” and some women are not only aware of this, but use it to their advantage. “We’ve been skewed by feminist ideology – we don’t see the power women have in our society,” he says. For how often MRAs accuse feminists of misandry, it’s incredibly ironic when they rely on arguments such as this one.  That statement is more insulting to men than anything feminists could come up with,” says Karius.

All this is not to say MRAs don’t have any valid claims. “We can and should absolutely talk about how our rigidly gendered society hurts men, but we can’t stop talking about the ways that women have been unequal and the ways in which women still suffer because of their gender,” says Hodge.

The issues MRAs have qualms with are basically class or social issues and have little to do with gender.

As feminism continues to be misrepresented and seen as some sort of hate movement, the goals feminists pursue become all the more relevant.

I think attacks by Men’s Rights Activists can be distracting from the issues and campaigns we’re involved in around women’s equality. It’s frustrating but I think most people who look at the issues can see MRAs tend to be pretty out-of touch,” says Hodge.

That being said, when I was waiting for Marshall’s interview, a man noticed I had been waiting for someone with a notebook and recorder and asked me about it. 

“I’m going to interview someone for an article,” I said.

“Who? And what is it about?” he asked

“I’m writing an article about the men’s rights movement,” I replied.

“Men’s rights! Ha! That’s a laugh! There’s no such thing these days!” he said as he walked off, guffawing.

Their attitudes may be outdated and misinformed, but many men agree with them. Examining gender inequality equipped with the wrong information can lead to some very troubling conclusions. MRAs create such noise in their political lobbying that they are bound to influence change. For example, a group called RADAR (Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting) claims they have blocked four federal domestic violence bills in the United States. These are not the first legal implications MRAs have had, nor will they be the last if MRAs are taken seriously and feminism continues to be painted in a negative light. 

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The Pink and Blue Project

A long time ago I got into an argument with a friend of mine.  I said that piercing the ears of young girls is cruel, and that its primary role (like all things pink and blue) is to clearly display the gender of the baby.  Because, heavens to Betsy, we all know that mistaking a baby boy for a baby girl (or vice versa) is the worst thing you can do to offend a new mom!

Anyway, unfortunately, my friend had had her ears pierced when she was an infant.   And she (rightly) attacked my tone – it was now her body and her life that we were talking about.  But I wish I could have pulled JeongMee Yoon’s photos at the time (I also wish I had known the word “heteronormativity,” but I was pretty out of the loop).

JeongMee Yoon is a Korean artist who has done a series of photographs entitled “The Pink and Blue Project.”    Perhaps you’ve seen them before.  She asks children to gather together all of their pink and blue things, and photographs them with their collections.

Here are the results:

JeeYoo and Her Pink Things -- The Pink Project -- JeongMee Yoon, 2008

 

Jimin and His Blue Things -- The Blue Project -- JeongMee Yoon, 2007

I think the best response to these ridiculous displays of gender binaries is from this little girl.  You’ve probably seen this linked on some other site, but it’s great.  She also looks pretty much exactly like our own resident feminist Ellie Gordon-Moershel, and is complaining about the same gender binary bullshit that Ellie did at her age/still does:

 

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Chipping Away at Gender Equality: Harper’s 5-year Round Up

This month marks the 5 year anniversary of the ascent to power of Canada’s exceptionally charismatic (cough*cough) and calculating Conservative PM Stephen Harper.  It’s surprising that Stephen Harper has lasted so long in a minority government, but for a minority PM, he sure has accomplished a lot- if by accomplishments, one is referring to the insidious erosion of women’s rights that has occurred in the last 5 years.  Let’s take a look back at what Harper has done to increase gender inequality, shall we?

1) Scrap Universal Day-Care

One of the first moves made by the Harper government was to cancel a national child care program, which most Canadians supported.   In its place was offered the Canada Child Tax Benefit, which provides parents the paltry sum of a taxable $100/month per child- you can’t pay a 12 year old to baby-sit more than a couple times for that amount, let alone access quality day-care

According to Sharon Gregson of the Coalition of Childcare Advocates of B.C, as reported by the Tyee

“Other countries are able to provide childcare for up to 100 percent of children between the age of three and six. Other countries, like Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Sweden, England and the United States invest more per capita in early childhood development services than Canada does.”

This move was supported, however, by right-wing group REAL Women- a truly terrifying conservative, anti-feminist, anti-choice, homophobic, judeo-christian group hell-bent on turning back the clock on women’s rights.

2)    Drastically Cut Status of Women Canada

Next up, Harper dramatically cut the funding of what was Canada’s most important body for promoting gender equity, Status of Women Canada.  Status of Women Canada provided advocacy, research and lobbying on behalf of women’s groups.  The government closed 12 out of 16 regional offices of SWC and their operating budget was cut by 38%. Changes were imposed to the criteria for funding for the Status of Women Canada’s Women’s Program that essentially barred advocacy and lobbying groups from receiving funding.   Many women-run NGOs no longer receive funding because they combine advocacy with other services — like women’s rape crisis centres advocating for an end to violence against women.  The icing on the cake?  The word equality was removed from the Status of Women Canada mandate.

With Status of Women gutted and many women’s advocacy groups silenced, who do you think the government takes its cues from when it wants ‘women’s opinions’?  That’s right.  REAL Women, who had this to say about the $5- million budget cut handed to SWC.

“This is a good start, and we hope that the Status of Women will eventually be eliminated entirely since it does not represent ‘women’, but only represents the ideology of feminists.”  (emphasis theirs)

3)    Cancel the Court Challenges Program

Up next on the docket- the court program that provided funding to women’s and minority groups to challenge court rulings that violated equality rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Sounds like a good program, doesn’t it?  And it was- it changed the way sexual assault complaints were reported in the media, when in 1988 the Supreme Court ruled that publishing victim’s names discourages reporting of sexual assault and does not allow privacy for victims.  And, in 1995, when a gay couple from BC challenged the definition of spouse in the Old Age Security Act, during which the the Supreme Court of Canada for the first time ruled that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is prohibited, leading the way for future cases against discrimination.

There have been many, many other important cases brought forth with the court challenges program to further equality and human rights.  It seems only fitting that a government that seeks to reduce women’s rights would want to stifle it.

4)    Axe Women’s Right to Pay Equity

It’s well known that across the board, women do not earn as much money as men.  Harper has taken steps to make sure it stays that way.

5)    Leave Abortion out of Canada’s G8 Maternal Health funding

Let’s start with this fact:

“Complications due to unsafe abortion procedures account for an estimated 13% of maternal deaths worldwide, or 67,000 per year. Almost all abortion-related deaths occur in developing countries.” (WHO)

How can a government that in 2009 stated it would champion maternal and child health in developing countries now declare its funding will not be used for abortion? When it is clear women in developing countries will die as a result?

Lack of access to safe abortion services is a serious health concern, and excluding it from Canada’s G8 funding is shamefully ignorant of good public health policy and does not support the rights and equality of women. Moreover, it speaks to a government that is socially conservative in its roots, and given the opportunity, might remove women’s ability to choose abortion in Canada, too.

6)    Appoint Fewer Women to Cabinet than Previous Governments

Despite being half the population (really!) women are still under-represented in government in Canada.  Women in Harper’s cabinet come in at a woe-full 26%  down from the only-slightly –better 30% seen with the previous liberal government.  Canada lags behind a lot of the world in terms of women’s representation in government.

That’s right, Canada is a ranked a pathetic 51 out of 135 nations.  Rwanda has the highest representation of women in government, by the way.

A lot of damage has been done in the past 5 years under Harper’s conservative government, and though he has tried to silence our voices, we are still here. Still making up half of the population.  It’s pretty powerful to imagine how much impact women could have if we demanded to be heard.

Harper may try to pacify us when the next election comes around- pose with kittens, dress in sweaters, smile occasionally- but the record of the last 5-years is very clear.  Women’s equality in Canada is going backwards.  When it’s time to vote, let’s change this.

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